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Each year, at the Annual National Conference of the Scottish National Party, it is my great pleasure to award the President's Prize to an SNP campaigner. The prize was initiated by my predecessor as Party President, Winnie Ewing, and is awarded to a member who has demonstrated exceptional active commitment to the SNP and Scottish Independence.
There are many volunteers who have dedicated themselves to working hard over the years, taking part in election campaigns, and helping to build popular support for independence. The levels of electoral success which we have achieved recently, and the fact that we are closer now to independence than ever, is a tribute to the many campaigners who have worked tirelessly for decades, building credibility for the Party.
The winner of this year's President's Prize is Jim Lynch, well known to readers as Editor of this newspaper, whose record of activity is an excellent illustration of what the prize is all about.
A Dundonian, Jim originally joined the SNP in Peterhead in 1966 where he was working at the time as an accountant. Within a short period of time he became Branch Chairman, instigated a local newsletter and generally helped with all of the usual campaign and fundraising activities.
In 1969 a new job opportunity took Jim to Edinburgh, and he attended his first meeting of the Corstorphine Branch, where former National Secretary Muriel Gibson persuaded him to take on the post of Vice-Chairman. During the early 1970's Winnie Ewing persuaded Jim to put himself forward as a potential SNP parliamentary candidate. He seemed to be developing a habit of being persuaded by powerful SNP women!
At the general elections of February and October 1974, Jim Lynch was our candidate in Edinburgh North. Deposits were saved on both occasions, which was a significant achievement at that time. In 1979 Jim contested Central Fife, against the legendary Willie Hamilton, and was one of only 19 SNP candidates who saved their deposits. In the election of 1983 Jim stood as our candidate in Dundee West, saved the deposit again, and won a £500 prize offered by a national newspaper for the best designed election address in Scotland.
Being an SNP candidate in those days was not necessarily a career enhancing move, and Jim's day job was becoming more demanding as his employer's business expanded, so he decided that contesting elections as a candidate would have to end. That did not mean that Jim's campaign activity ended. Far from it. Jim travelled the country to help at by elections, actively helped SNP candidates in key target areas and became more involved with the Scots Independent, which has been run by small groups of dedicated volunteers since it was founded in 1926.
Jim Lynch became a board member of the SI, and was instrumental in setting up the Flag In The Wind website as the electronic version of the newspaper. In 2005 a vacancy arose for Editor of the paper. Jim agreed to take on the job, for up to 3 months, until a new Editor could be found. 10 years later Jim is still Editor, which is a major voluntary commitment of time and energy - and I know that some of his regular contributors, myself included, add to the stress by failing to meet copy deadlines.
Delegates at our recent, and biggest ever, conference in Aberdeen gave Jim a well deserved standing ovation when he took to the stage to accept the award. In an eloquent acceptance speech Jim said that a couple of years ago his doctor said he would keep him alive until the Referendum. He didn't get round to asking for an extension, but would just keep breathing. With his advanced years you might think he would want a quick second Referendum before he shuffled off his mortal coil. He did not.
Jim declared; "We should not have a Referendum until we know we can win it. We will get all sorts of offers - Devo whatever, full fiscal autonomy, federalism and whatever kind of vow they can conjure up. Power devolved is power retained and the London Lairds - currently the Tory version - want to cut off our grasping hands. The only idea that works is Independence - nothing less."
At the SI stand Jim said that his wife Margaret had been given an armband saying "Both Votes SNP", which he held up to conference as an essential aim of next year's election campaign.
Jim concluded: "When you look at me you see the past. When I look at you I see the future" His final words "And I am smiling" were all but drowned out by the applause.